In this day in 1932 John R. Cash was born in Kingland, Arkansas. In 1954 Cash, and his and his then wife Vivian moved to Memphis, Tennessee. He took time between selling appliances door-to-door and studying to be a radio announcer to audition for Sam Phillips at his Sun Records studios (ground central for the culture shift of mid-Twentieth century American. ) The rest is history.
Later in his career Cash , like many other was seen too old to be worthy of Nashville’s Music City’s attention, never mind his legendary status. These were the days of Garth and Shania. Never mind some old dude with an imposing figure who dresses like a grave digger and sings of old testament doom. No market for that.
Then Rick Rubin helped Cash proved the lie in it. People from all generations still hungered for authenticity. For truth. For dignity and adherence to the roots of music. Rubin and Cash’s American recordings led to a new career high for the Man in Black with millions of albums sold, a GRAMMY win, and a new generation of fans looking for something real.
In 2002 Cash on the “Spirit of Americana” Free Speech Award from the Americana Music Association. In 2003 he snagged AMA Album of the Year for “American IV: The Man Comes Around” and won Artist of the Year. This transition of country music legends into Americana icons is a large part of the reason the genre garnered my interest. The new genre was partly born as a reflex of Music City’s inability to celebrate it’s history. Attention to history and reverence to the old-guard, and great music, in spite of some marketers prognostication of viability for a fickle mass market, allowed a new home for those not having their phone-calls returned by Nashville.
Cash was a man that understood reverence to musical history and the crossing of boundaries to capture the beauty and strength of those old songs. When Cash collaborated with Dylan, Kristofferson, Willie, Waylon and Rick Rubin it wasn’t to chase other demographics. It was to confer with like-minded journeymen and follow his heart and make great music. Here’s to those with the courage to be great.Here’s to John R. Cash and his lasting legacy.